- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
How do you take over a basketball game?
Watch St. Mary’s College of Maryland Seahawks sophomore guard Nick LaGuerre, and he can show you.
Down 63-56 with less than nine minutes left in a men’s basketball contest against the visiting Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineers in the opening round of the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament on Saturday night, LaGuerre led a 17-2 scoring run, a charge that put the Seahawks ahead 73-65 with 2 minutes 36 seconds remaining in the game.
That run proved to be the difference in the eventual 85-76 Seahawks win.
The Seahawks will return to action in the second round at 7 p.m. Saturday at Alvernia University (Pa.).
In the midst of the 17-2 run against MIT, LaGuerre scored 12 of the 17 points, including an individual effort that amounted to 10 straight points, the three biggest points coming on a three-point make that gave the Seahawks a 65-63 lead with 6:48 remaining in the game, the first lead for the Seahawks since 16-15 with 10:11 remaining in the first half.
Making LaGuerre’s explosion more improbable was the fact that the sophomore only scored two points on an 0-for-3 shooting effort in the first half, but he finished with a team-high 19 points.
“We were down, so we knew something had to happen,” LaGuerre said. “I wasn’t hitting shots all night, but I just credit my teammates for [continually] giving me the ball and having confidence in me. Once I started hitting shots, the team morale just boosted and we just took it over.”
MIT came into the contest Saturday night as a Final Four team from last season, giving the Seahawks and head coach Chris Harney its stiffest test to date.
“I believe in my guys, and I know how tough they are,” Harney said. “Going into this game, I was confident, I really was. I thought we had a good game plan, and really, when you watch MIT, they are a physical, tough, very intelligent team. They check all of the boxes. I think our team, sometimes, maybe doesn’t get that credit all of the time.”
A lot of that physical toughness came from MIT senior Will Tashman, a 6-foot-8 forward and the 2012-13 New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Athlete of the Year who scored a game-high 23 points, pulled down a game-high nine rebounds and gave the St. Mary’s frontcourt problems all game.
But a defense-by-committee game plan from the Seahawks, led by junior Brendan McFall (13 points), helped keep Tashman quiet over the final stretch of the contest.
“For us, we were definitely giving up height,” McFall said. “I think what we did was play good team defense. Tashman is probably the best post-player we have played all season, he definitely was. But I mean, that is why basketball is a team game.”
As MIT (20-6 overall) tried to pull away and stretch its lead in the first half, Donn Hill’s play helped keep the Seahawks (25-3) within striking distance, as the junior scored nine of his 17 points in the opening half of play.
“I was just being aggressive,” Hill said. “I was attacking and playing with confidence. ... Everything was just about confidence and aggressive play.”
Harney also praised the play of guard Kyle Wise (11 points) as he converted five of eight free throws over the final 1:30 of the game to help keep MIT from positioning itself to possibly tie or win the game late.
“Every time we are in those big-game, pressure moments, I think back to recruiting Kyle,” Harney said. “Kyle Wise has been a superstar leader guard his whole life. ... People don’t realize he has been a go-to guy his whole life. Kyle is just completely unselfish and a total team player, and when we get in that pressure situation, he is the guy you don’t want on the free-throw line and the guy you don’t want handling that ball. He is never rattled.”
The Seahawks have been playing without senior guard Devin Spencer since losing him in the CAC semifinal victory over Mary Washington (Va.) due to a finger injury.
“Devin is always in my ear,” LaGuerre added. “He is usually the one hitting the big shots, so he is always in my ear telling me to keep my head up.”